Behind the Scenes: Rosé of Pinot Noir Debut

Imagery is key when launching a new product and we knew the best person to help capture the essence of Layer Cake’s new Rosé of Pinot Noir: food and lifestyle photographer Matt Armendariz.

We flew down and spent two days in his naturally lit, loft-style photo studio in Long Beach, CA. We were graced with his talent, props, equipment and stylists to help us achieve the perfect shot for our upcoming launch. The goal was to make the wine look as good as it tastes. We succeeded.

Few know just how much it takes to get the perfect shot, especially one as important as this for our new product release. For this, we were extremely grateful to have Matt’s expertise. Once we were happy the the final shot, it was time to bring the ad to life.

That’s when we turned to Zentiv creative agency in Santa Rosa, CA to help the ad jump off the page. You can see our beautiful new ad in the latest editions of Wine Spectator, Food & WineWine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, Sunset and many more. We believe it captures the essence of the wine, and are excited to share it with you all. Cheers.

Wine and Food Pairings for Your Home Brunch

Brunch has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, and for good reason. Between the upscale food and the tasty cocktails, brunch has everything you need to have a truly relaxing weekend. Many restaurants and wineries have started offering special brunch menus on weekend mornings. But sometimes, you don’t feel like going out. For those days that you want the comfort of your own home, but still want a relaxing brunch with friends, we have some brunch hosting tips for you!

Plan a Theme

Every meal is better with a theme, especially when entertaining! Choose a common element to tie your brunch together. You could choose a region-inspired brunch, serving dishes from places like Italy or New Orleans, and picking décor and music to match.

Or maybe you want a food theme! Try a veggie-only brunch, or pick a main entrée dish and choose sides and drinks to match!

Other themes could include colors, time periods, or even pop culture references. The sky is your limit! Choosing a theme makes it easier for everyone to pitch in while still having a cohesive brunch meal. This way your brunch will be a team effort and no one person will have to do all the work. More fun for everyone!

Think about Prep

If you want your brunch to run smoothly, think about the flow of traffic between food prep and food consumption. Prep as much of your meal as possible before your guests arrive. Put baked goods in the oven as your guests arrive, to be enjoyed after your first drinks.

Create a station for light food and drink prep. If you’re looking for maximum convenience, look at these wine tasting centers that store wine bottles, glasses, and have counter-space for drink prep. With drawers to store your bottle opener and silverware, you can make this your brunch supply station and be ready for brunch any time! Some even have room for seating and double as a table!

Pair Fantastic Food with Wonderful Wine

Now for what you’re really here for: the food! Here are some ideas to get you started planning your brunch meal:

  • Flatbread is a great finger food and easy to pair with other dishes. Try some simple herbs, smoked salmon and prosciutto on grilled flatbread. It’d go great with Layer Cake Chardonnay or a crisp, Sauvignon Blanc to balance out the salt in the smoked salmon.
  • Want your brunch to have fresh, homegrown food? Plan ahead and plant a pesto garden! Then all your brunches can have a lovely pesto for pizza, pasta, flatbread, or bruschetta!
  • Pair a French Toast (or as the French call it, Pain Perdu) with a homemade berry jam and the fruity Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Looking to add some whimsy to your meal? Check out this A-Z guide to edible flowers. There are recipes for rose jam, yucca hash, and more! You can even make your own Dandelion Wine as an after-brunch palate cleanser. Edible flowers are an easy and unique addition to any meal, more information can be found at Sharie’s Berries Guide to Edible Flowers as well.
  • Stock up on your favorite Champagne or sparkling wine and some fresh citrus juices (orange, grapefruit, tangerine, etc.) for a low-maintenance mimosa bar!
  • Want to give your guests an option with a little zing? Try these Buttermilk and Sharp Cheddar Biscuits with Brown Sugar Cured Ham & Pepper Jelly.

These are just a few fun ideas for your next wine-centric brunch with close friends and family. What’s your favorite brunch pairing? Share in the comments!

Submitted by Layer Cake Wines fan, Jeriann Watkins

An Italian Pantry

Daydreaming of an Italian vacation? Those golden sunsets. The olive trees swaying in the breeze, the rolling hills striped with grapevines. A farm table set for a leisurely dinner al fresco under the wisteria. A glass of Primitivo toasting yet another beautiful day.

Why wait? Start where the Italians would, with an unfussy meal of high-quality ingredients, simply prepared, like our Cacio e Pepe. Stock your pantry Italian-style, and you can easily pull together a dreamy, nourishing feast on any day of the week. Delizioso!

  • Olive oil. Keep one workhorse olive oil for everyday cooking, and splurge on a really good bottle of extra-virgin oil for finishing, salad dressings and saucing pastas. Excellent California producers include McEvoy Ranch, Stonehouse and Grumpy Goats Farm.
  • Dried pastas. Have a variety of shapes on hand to pair with different sauces and quickly sautéed veggies. Give orecchiette, strozzapreti or cavatappi a whirl. Legendary cookbook author Marcella Hazan (she’s considered the Julia Child of Italian cooking in the US) offered some helpful rules of thumb for perfect pasta cookery.
  • Cured meats. Slice up sopressata or roll up prosciutto for an antipasto plate with cheese and ciabatta. Keep frozen pizza dough on hand for a better-than-delivery meal, adding whisper-thin slices of salami at the end of baking. Freeze a package of diced pancetta and you’ll always be two steps closer to bucatini amatriciana.
  • Grains. Farro, rice and polenta keep for ages in the pantry. Pull them into service for a side dish (or main) with a box of chicken stock, dried porcini mushrooms and aged Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Regianno cheese.
  • Jars and tins. Toss olives, capers, anchovies and a big can of San Marzano tomatoes together for a gutsy puttanesca sauce. Cannellini beans with oil-packed tuna are a classic salad pairing for an easy lunch. Get creative with crostini toppings: artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, or jarred bruschetta spread (which can also double as a pasta sauce).
  • Herbs. Nothing brightens a store-bought sauce like a chiffonade of fresh basil or flurry of chopped oregano. Fresh herbs don’t keep long, though, so unless you have a window herb garden at the ready, rely on dried herbs. (Generally, one teaspoon of dried herbs is equivalent to a tablespoon of fresh.) Also bear in mind that dried leafy herbs are only really fresh for 6 months to a year; old spices won’t make anyone ill, but they won’t flavor your dinner much, either.
  • Lots of garlic. So much garlic! Plus a few onions (yellow or cippolini, a sweeter Italian variety) and shallots; many, many Italian recipes start with these ingredients. Alliums keep best in a cool, dry area with some ventilation; a countertop usually does the trick. Store separately from potatoes, since an onion’s gases will hasten spoilage in spuds.
  • Layer Cake wine. Because, well, it just wouldn’t be la dolce vita without it. No passport required!

Discovering Heirloom Rice

It’s no secret: we love good food. Sweet, decadent, umami – we seek out bold flavors and go all out to create meals that are hard to forget. We love ingredients that have a story. Whether it’s locally raised lamb that falls off the bone or provisions from farmers with a mission, we seek out suppliers who understand what it means to be passionate about food.

A few years ago, we came across a product that spoke to us – heirloom rice by Lotus Foods. Actually, friends introduced us to Forbidden Black Rice with its beautiful texture and even more striking flavor. After such a meal enhancement, we had to explore the whole line, from Bhutan Red Rice to Volcano Rice. Sure enough, each was as delicious as the next.

We felt compelled to seek out the people responsible for these amazing rice varietals. Sure enough, upon meeting Ken Lee and Carol Levine, we felt an instant connection. Not only for their work to promote sustainably grown, exotic rice hand crafted on small family farms in remote areas of the world, but for their purpose of championing such distinctive rice in the US.

The unique attributes of such heirloom rice are quite akin to wine. The terroir, or special characteristics of geography in which the rice is grown, impacts and adds to the individuality of each product. This rice truly carries the sense of place in which it’s grown, each exuding vastly different flavors, textures, aromas and cooking qualities.

There are currently twelve varieties of heirloom rice from Lotus Foods. We’ve tried them all it’s hard to choose a favorite, but for now, we’ve chosen the Forbidden Black Rice and paired it with Liberty Duck and Bing Cherry Sauce (and a bottle of Layer Cake Pinot Noir) for an unforgettable meal.

Other stories and recipes from our journeys can be found in the One True Vine Journal 002. You can purchase a copy here.

Home Garden: Tomatoes

The purpose of a home garden brings about different reasons for all of us.  Many can look to our family heritage and traditions handed down by each generation to support and feed the family.  Friends use gardening as a tool to relieve anxiety and the challenges we experience in our daily lives. In my experience, it is not one reason alone that draws us to our backyard gardens but a combination of personal thoughts and feelings that allows a garden to flourish.

For me, the home garden stirs childhood memories spending early mornings with my mother weeding and poking around the garden in search of the next hidden surprise that we could harvest and bring to the kitchen.

One of the fondest memories I have growing up was the joy and excitement brought about by picking the first vine ripe tomatoes of the season with mom. To this day, I vividly remember the tomatoes being warm from the afternoon sun and smell of the vines, even after all the years that have passed I can’t harvest tomatoes from the garden and not have that memory coming racing to mind.

Our ritual would be the first meal – tomato sandwiches! Mom always had grandma’s homemade bread ready and waiting, lightly toasted to ‘just’ golden brown.  A generous slathering of mayo for both sides of the bread and then we piled on thick slices of tomatoes with a hint a salt. The first bite never ceased to amaze us and always brought a smile to our faces. Now that I am in the kitchen the routine hasn’t changed; the only difference is that now we each have our own gardens and I must call Mom and share the memories while we talk on the phone.

Tomatoes bring back memories every season, and they provide a launching point for creating other delectable dishes. A favorite of our team is the sweet 100’s and sun gold tomatoes. We love them so much we dedicated a bruschetta recipe to them and paired them with our Layer Cake Rosé of Pinot Noir.

The ‘summer’ gardening days are over; however, it is not official until a gathering of family and friends to grab the last flats of tomatoes from the vines for canning.  A ‘harvest party’ of sorts, complete with our favorite bottles of Layer Cake Wine, that allows us to capture tomatoes in all their glory to enjoy during the winter days ahead.